One of the most encouraging and comforting things that a Christian needs to realise and constantly remember--particularly when he's going through times of trouble, trials and tribulations--is that our Heavenly Father LOVES us, and is in absolute and total control of our lives!--And that NOTHING can happen to us without HIS will or HIS permission! So even if WE don't always understand exactly why we're going through such trials, GOD knows what He's doing! He knows all the purposes and reasons behind every test, trial, affliction etc.
He promises us in His Word, "ALL THINGS work together for GOOD to them that love God."--Romans 8:28. A-L-L, ALL! He will never let anything happen to you, His child, except that which is for your GOOD! Of course, you may be tempted to feel like, "Goodness gracious!--A LOT of things have happened that don't look very good to me!" Well, I dare say that you finally found out sooner or later that somehow or another they WERE good for you.--Or you will YET!
The following true story beautifully illustrates this principle: One chilly winter morning, a fishing fleet launched out from a small harbour on the east coast of Newfoundland. In the afternoon there arose a great storm. When night settled, not a single vessel of all the fleet had found its way back into port.
All night long, wives, mothers, children & sweethearts paced up & down the windswept beach, wringing their hands & calling on God to save their lost loved ones. To add to the horror of the situation, one of their cottages caught fire. Since the men were away, it was impossible to put out the blaze & save it.
When morning broke, to the joy of all, the entire fleet had returned safely to harbour in the bay. But there was one face which was a picture of despair--the wife of the man whose home had been destroyed in the fire.
Meeting her husband as he landed, she cried, "Oh, Honey, we are RUINED! Our home & everything in it was destroyed by fire!" But the man exclaimed to her surprise, "THANK GOD for that fire! It was the light of our burning cottage that safely guided the whole fleet into port!"
Jesus has told us, "I am with you ALWAYS, even unto the END of the World."--Matthew 28:20. He also promises, "I will NEVER leave you nor forsake you!"--Hebrews 13:5. Even through the DARKEST and most trying times, the Lord is always "a Friend that sticks closer than a brother!"--Proverbs 18:24. "Yea, even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of DEATH, I will fear no evil, for THOU art WITH me!"--Psalm 23:4. No matter WHAT hard turns your road may take, Jesus is WITH you, He CARES and He will somehow work even the seemingly darkest and most discouraging circumstances and conditions together for your good.--He's PROMISED to!
We know that the Lord loves us and that He is always willing to do His best to help us if we are doing our best to obey Him. Therefore, when things aren't going quite right, we know it's not God's fault, but that He is probably trying to teach us some thing; or perhaps we are missing the mark somehow, failing in some area or mistaken in some way about the way we're doing things.
So the first thing to do when things begin going wrong is to look to the Lord and PRAY, ask Him what we could be doing wrong, or how we could do things BETTER, or if we're making some kind of mistake or in some way actually DISOBEYING Him.
God's Word tells us that "the curse undeserved shall not come" (Proverbs 26:2), which means that troubles, accidents, problems etc. don't just "happen" to Christians!--A Christian doesn't HAVE accidents! If seemingly bad things befall us, God allows them for a PURPOSE, a REASON, although it may not always be revealed or understood by us immediately!
The Lord often allows seemingly "bad" things to happen to us to draw us CLOSER to Him, to keep us HUMBLE & more DEPENDENT on HIM, such as what the Bible calls "CHASTENINGS", or spankings from the Lord. Like any good father, it hurts Him to see His children disobey and go astray, because He loves us, and He knows that our disobedience and wrong-doings hurt US. So He tries in love to correct us.
If a sheep insists on wandering away from the Shepherd and away from the fold, away from the right path, a loving whack from the shepherd's rod is often what it takes to cause that sheep to return to where it belongs.
Of course, most of us don't usually feel that a spanking is very GOOD news, but the Lord says, "Whom the Lord LOVES, He chastens, and punishes every son whom He receives. And though no chastening AT THE TIME seems PLEASANT, but PAINFUL, nevertheless AFTERWARDS it produces a harvest of RIGHTEOUSNESS and PEACE for those who have been trained by it!"--Hebrews 12:6,11.
So even though a spanking or chastening from the Lord certainly doesn't feel like a good thing when you GET it, it's good FOR you!--Especially if it causes you to repent of your erring ways and return to the Lord. The Lord uses chastisements because He LOVES us and He knows that they are needed to keep us in line, to keep us in shape and to keep us close to Him. And though they are hard for us to take sometimes, they are a token of His LOVE, His "intolerable compliment", and are a necessary part of our training that definitely works together for our good!
Sometimes God has to let things happen to us just to get our ATTENTION!--Particularly if we are too distracted and thinking about too many other things, "the cares, the riches and the pleasures of this life."--Luke 8:14. When we're too concerned or worried about this, that and the other, and our minds are off of the Lord, He often allows things to happen to sort of JOLT and wake us up to the real ETERNAL values: HIM and His WORD and His WORK!
The great Psalmist, King David, realised this when HE was chastened and afflicted, and he wrote, "BEFORE I was AFFLICTED, I went ASTRAY; but NOW have I kept Thy WORD!--It is GOOD for me that I have been afflicted, that I might LEARN Thy STATUTES!"--Psalm 119:67,71.
Of course, sometimes the Lord allows things to happen that disappoint or look bad to us, not as a chastisement, but because He mercifully wants to SPARE us from serious danger or trouble that we would get ourselves into were things to go OUR way. Often he does not answer our prayers the way we want Him to because He sees AHEAD, and knows that our desires would hurt and harm us were we to get them.
The Lord's answers to our prayers are infinitely perfect, and they will show that often when we were asking for a stone that looked to us like bread, He was giving us bread that to our shortsightedness looked like a stone! (See Matthew 7:7-11.) The following story illustrates this perfectly:
One stormy winter night in 1910, a group of travelling Christian musicians arrived at the city of Riga, on the Baltic Sea, to fulfil a concert engagement.
The weather was so bad, however, and the concert hall so far out of town, that the conductor of the orchestra tried to persuade the manager of the music hall to cancel the concert. He felt that no one would venture out on such a terribly stormy and wild night.
The manager refused to cancel, but he agreed that if no one turned up, the orchestra could leave early in order to catch the night boat for Helsinki, Finland.
When the musicians arrived at the concert hall, they found only ONE person sitting in the audience, a stout old gentleman who seemed to smile at everyone.
Because of this old music-lover, the musicians were forced to play the entire concert. They were, therefore, unable to leave early and catch the boat.
After the concert was over, the old man continued to keep his seat. Thinking he was asleep, an usher nudged his shoulder. Only then was it discovered that the old man was not alive. The musicians had played an entire concert for a DEAD man!
But in doing this, they also had saved their lives. For the boat they would have taken to Helsinki went down that stormy night, & all crew members were drowned.
So although His children in that orchestra had earnestly hoped to avoid playing in that concert so they could catch the boat, the Lord knew better than they did, & used these seemingly disappointing circumstances to spare them from disaster!
Another reason that the Lord sometimes allows seemingly bad things to happen to us is simply to HUMBLE us and BREAK us so He can REMAKE us into what HE wants us to be. (See "MAKINGS BY BREAKINGS!")
Many times the Bible likens the Lord unto a POTTER, and us unto the CLAY in His hands.--Isaiah 45:9; 64:8; Romans 9:20,21.--Clay which He desires to form into a vessel that is "fit for the Master's use!"--2Timothy 2:21. But often when a potter is working with clay, when he is forming a vessel and discovers an imperfection or a mistake, a lump or a mar, he will take that same clay and CRUSH it, then add water to soften it again so he can knead it, rework it and remake it. He mashes it, crushes it and squeezes it until it's nice soft moldable clay again.--Then he can remake it into a NEW and a BETTER vessel since the first one didn't turn out quite right.
"And the vessel that the potter made of clay was MARRED in the hand of the potter: So he made it again into ANOTHER vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make it.--`O My people, can I not do with YOU as the POTTER does with his clay? Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are YOU in MY hand!'"--Jeremiah 18:4,6.
At first, it probably doesn't seem like a very good thing to that vessel, when its maker suddenly starts mashing and smashing and crushing and remaking it, but in the long run it becomes a BETTER vessel for it.--It "works together for its good"!
The Lord often allows some things to happen to us to TEST us and TRY us, to PURGE us and to make us BETTER vessels, so we will be more useful for His service, more humble and more loving. He puts us through FIERY trials to burn out the DROSS, and through the STORMS of testing to blow away the CHAFF, and through DEEP WATERS so we can learn to SWIM! The Lord uses such tests to give us great victories, even out of seeming defeats, because the trials cause us to draw closer to Him and to cry out to Him and really seek Him with ALL of our hearts.--Otherwise we have a tendency to sort of rock along with business as usual.
So the storms and the fires and the trials and tribulations of this life are all GOOD for us because they test our strength and determination, and give us a chance to FIGHT the Devil!--To see if we'll give up and lose faith, or if we'll keep on "FIGHTING the fight of faith" and trusting the Lord in spite of it all!--1Timothy 6:12. He often allows us to have our faith and our patience tested to see how much we will really "STIR ourselves up" to CALL upon HIM for HIS help and HIS strength.--Isaiah 64:7.
Of course, when the Lord allows us to go through a big trial or trouble, it's a real TEST, and sad to say, it often ends in COMPLAINING and MURMURING, and people sometimes hold it against God! Instead of really LEARNING the LESSONS that He wants to teach them from their troubles or sicknesses or whatever He has allowed, they murmur and ask, "God, WHY did You do this to ME?", instead of, "Lord, why did I DESERVE this?--Why did I NEED it?" They're almost OFFENDED at God for letting things happen to them, instead of realising that God is DEALING with them and trying to SHOW them something.
Some people are so self-righteous, they wonder, "How could God do such a thing to ME? How could the Lord treat ME this way when I'M so GOOD to HIM?" They actually RESENT it, just like JOB did when the Lord first started dealing with him. (See "THE IMPATIENCE OF JOB!") Look what the Lord had to put Job through before he was finally humbled and confessed that he wasn't more righteous than God!
SELF-RIGHTEOUS people always blame GOD for all their problems instead of themselves, or instead of accepting it for whatever reason God is allowing it and thereby learning their lessons. Some people with problems or troubles are always going around saying, "Why? Why?--WHY has God done this to me? WHY does God let me suffer like this?--I've tried to be good & do this and that for God, but I'm STILL suffering! He STILL hasn't delivered me! Why NOT?" Well, when people start asking God why in THAT kind of spirit, it is pure SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS!
God HATES such murmuring, complaining and self-righteousness, and He destroyed a whole generation of MILLIONS of Jews in the Sinaitic desert because of their murmuring and pretending to be more righteous than God! "WE wouldn't have done this, God. Why did YOU do this to us, God? WE would have been GOODER than YOU are, God!" (See "THE MURMURERS' FATE!")
It's the DEVIL'S business to use such tests and trials to try to convince you that God doesn't love you and that He doesn't answer prayer! The Lord ALLOWS the Enemy to do it in order to test your faith and to see how much you really love the Lord and what PRICE you're willing to PAY to serve Him!--To see if you will "CURSE God and DIE", as Job's doubting wife told him to do, or if you will love the Lord ANYWAY and proclaim, "Even though He SLAYS me, yet I will still TRUST Him!", like Job did!--DESPITE the trials!--Job 2:9; 13:15.
Trials and tests will either make you HARDENED and BITTER, or HUMBLED and BETTER!--One or the other! So when faced with tests, trials and tribulations, watch out that you don't harden your heart, that you don't get bitter and resentful against the Lord. His Word says, "Look diligently, lest any man fail the grace of God, lest any ROOT OF BITTERNESS spring up and TROUBLE you, and through it, MANY be DEFILED!"--Hebrews 12:15.
HARDENING your heart is NOT the solution! He says, "Harden NOT your hearts!"--Hebrews 3:15. But rather, "Cast your burdens upon the LORD, and HE shall sustain you! SEEK the LORD while He may be found, CALL upon HIM while He is near! For the Lord is CLOSE to them that are of a BROKEN heart, and SAVES such as be of a BROKEN and HUMBLE spirit!"--Psalm 55:22;34:18; Isaiah 55:6.
WHATEVER God does, He always does it in LOVE.--And as we said earlier, He will never allow ANYTHING to happen to you that is not for your GOOD, for truly, "ALL things do work together for good to them that love God!"--Romans 8:28.
So when things look DARKEST, DON'T look DOWN.--Look UP! Don't murmur and complain! But start PRAISING the Lord, and you can often praise your way right out of the pit of doubt, defeat and discouragement into which the Devil is trying to cast you! The Lord LOVES praise and thanksgiving. His Word says that He DWELLS in the PRAISES of His people!--Psalm 22:3.
Doubt, fear, discouragement and murmuring KILL! But faith, trust, courage and praising the Lord brings LIFE! So let's try to TAKE our testings and our temptations graciously, and even gratefully! The Lord promises that He will NEVER give you more than you are able to BEAR, and that He will always make a way of ESCAPE.--Somehow He will always make it easier for you or at least help you to bear it if you call on Him for help. He says, "There has no temptation come upon you except what is COMMON to man. But GOD is FAITHFUL, Who will NOT allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to ESCAPE, that you may be able to BEAR it!"--1Corinthians 10:13.
"But oh!" you may say, "I don't see how I can possibly bear THIS trial, THIS chastening, THIS test, it's TOO BIG for me to handle!" Well, look at the trial the Lord let His Prophet, JONAH, go through after he refused to obey the Lord and go and warn the wicked city of Ninevah as God had commanded him. A gigantic WHALE swallowed him up, and he thought that he was FINISHED!--But that same whale that gobbled him up was the means whereby God brought him safely to land!--It was a BLESSING in disguise! For three long days and nights Jonah was in the belly of that whale, but when he finally quit complaining, yielded to the Lord and began to THANK and PRAISE God, the Lord commanded the whale to spit Jonah out on dry land, and he was DELIVERED! (See Jonah 1 and 2.)
So always remember, the Lord LOVES you, and life's DARKEST hour is often just before DAWN! WHATEVER trials may befall you, don't despair, don't give up, don't lose hope!--But look to JESUS in your time of trial, claim and cling to His promises and believe His Word--that whatever it is you're going through, He will truly work it together for your GOOD--and He WILL! He HAS to, it's His PROMISE! He NEVER fails! Amen? GOD BLESS YOU!